Ask five people how they feel about returning to work at the office and you’ll get five different answers. This is because, even though we’ve all been stuck working from home for the last 14 months, our experiences have varied wildly. And with that comes mixed feelings about returning to the old routine.
For those that are reluctant, some of the anxiety may disappear within a few days of walking back through the office doors but it’s still important to ensure that you have considered the concerns and feelings of every single one of your employees beforehand.
This article will explain the steps you should take to ensure the wellbeing of your staff is taken care of as the return to the office approaches.
Our first recommendation is to run a staff survey and we advise that you do it now (or as soon as you can before the office reopens). The reason for this is you need a benchmark on how people are feeling about work that you can use to compare with future surveys once office working has returned.
We then recommend running the survey again a month after the office has reopened and on a quarterly basis from then onwards.
Providing clear communication about the return to the office is key. As well as giving plenty of notice of the return date, make sure you provide details of timings, entrance ways, social distancing measures, changes in facilities (limited kitchen areas, reduced capacity of the toilets), how to book a hot desk, dress code, which departments will be there (if it’s a phased return), and what is expected of employees on the first day. This may seem like overkill, but the less uncertainty people have, the more straightforward it will feel. Also add a contact number for further enquiries if needed.
Line Management One-to-Ones
One-to-ones are undoubtedly already happening in your workplace but we recommend that line managers make efforts to squeeze a few more shorter sessions in with each of their direct reports both just before the office reopens and just after to identify any concerns or issues and take action to resolve them.
Make the return fun
Every step we take to show we’re beating Covid should be celebrated and returning to the office is no different. Why not hold a safe, socially distanced party in the office? Or greet everyone that returns with a welcome back gift or a personal email from the CEO thanking them for their dedication.
Don’t try to dive back to work too quickly – the first day or so should be for the team to refamiliarise themselves with their surroundings and colleagues.
Think about the long term
Some of the events of the last year will have had a permanent impact on your employees which is why it might be helpful to look at introducing a channel for them to deal with how they’re feeling and how it affects their working life. This could take the form of regular events such as teambuilding focussed on boxing or intense physical exercise, optional Wellbeing sessions with an external councillor, or even a Buddy Programme.
On top of that, give your employees lots to look forward to. Perhaps provide details of when the sports tournaments will be reinstated and even give hints about the next Christmas party.
We know you’re keen to ensure a productive, committed and effective workforce. It just might take a little time.